Joe Biden teared up while discussing the financial and mental-health impact of COVID-19 on the American public in his first interview since he won the presidency, which took place Tuesday.
The president-elect’s eyes began welling up as he discussed his priorities on his first days in the Oval Office during an interview with NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt. Biden recalled his father being “restless” one night because he had just changed jobs and lost his health insurance: “Think of all the people laying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, thinking, ‘God forbid [that this] happens,’” he said. “This is more than just a financial crisis. It’s a crisis that is causing real mental stress for millions of people and it’s within our power to solve it. And to grow the economy at the same time.”
Biden sat down with Lester Holt the day after the General Services Administration (GSA) told Biden and his team, weeks after the election was called for Biden, that the Trump administration would begin the presidential transition process.
Biden told Holt that the presidential transition had kicked into gear since Monday, with the National Security apparatus reaching out to Biden’s transition team, and the White House’s COVID-19 team also scheduling a meeting. “There’s a lot of immediate discussion, and I must say, the outreach has been sincere,” Biden said. “There’s has not been begrudging so far. And I don’t expect it to be [that way]. So yes, it’s already begun.” He said he had not yet spoken with President Trump regarding a transition, but that his chief of staff had spoken with Trump’s.
On Monday and Tuesday, Biden also began announcing his Cabinet picks, which included Anthony Blinken as the secretary of state nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas as the homeland security secretary nominee and Avril Haines as his director of national intelligence nominee. If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Latino at the top of the Department of Homeland Security and Haines would be the first woman to hold the chief U.S. intelligence post.
His message with these Cabinet picks, Biden said, is “America’s back, we’re at the head of the table once again. I’ve spoken with over 20 world leaders and they all are literally really pleased and very excited. America is going to reassert its place in the world and be a coalition leader.” He pushed back on the idea that his administration would be an “Obama third term,” saying that the landscape his administration is facing is “completely different” from Obama’s.
Biden particularly emphasized reuniting the country in his remarks Tuesday. The president-elect said he would be open to nominating a Republican who potentially voted for President Trump over himself in the name of unity. “I want this country to be united … we can’t keep this virulent political dialogue going,” he said. He didn’t commit to investigations into particular events of Trump’s tenure in the White House, saying, “I will not do what this president does and use the Justice Department as my vehicle to insist that something happen.”
His priorities when he heads into office? Biden said he wanted to send an immigration bill into Congress offering a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants; do away with executive orders during Trump’s time in office that “significantly impacted making the climate worse”; and wanted to provide immediate aid to state and local governments that are suffering financially.
The rest of Biden’s interview with Holt will air on Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News.